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Badjao Graduates Magna Cum Laude

Badjaos (an ethnic group in southern Philippines) are illiterate because their families would rather send them to the sea to fish for their food than to school yet a few of them are breaking barriers and earning a degree despite this not being the norm for their tribe.

In fact, there are a handful who have already earned a degree – thanks to the special scholarship offered at Mindanao State University (MSU) Tawi-Tawi. One of these Badjao scholars was so brilliant that not only did he graduate from college with a degree in Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in English (yep! English!), he also did so with the honor of magna cum laude!

Roben Abdella is an achiever who finished his education despite not having enough money for food and other school expenses. He received academic scholarship from the university but his allowance was not enough to meet his needs; thus, he had to skip a lot of meals but since his family was used to eating just once a day, this did not prove to be a major problem to Abdella.

His home was 4 hours away from school; thus, he was rarely able to see his family yet he continued to persevere in school.

Aside from having to deal with these problems, Abdella also experienced discrimination from his schoolmates because of his ethnicity yet just as he overcame the other hurdles in his life, he also managed to overcome the discrimination and surprised everyone when he graduated magna cum laude from a very unlikely degree!

Photo credit: Rappler/Basil Sali
Photo credit: Rappler/Basil Sali

His professors were all praises for Abdella! MSU Tawi-Tawi professor Basil Sali proudly revealed that Abdella is excellent both in writing and speaking English! He told Rappler, “Once you ask him, alam mo ‘yung substance nung content, naibibigay niya (he can give the substance of the content). And then he’s an excellent worker.

The Badjao community threw a graduation party that lasted for 3 days.

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